We are always honored to have students consider our department for potential graduate studies.
It is nice to know that we are becoming famous around the world. I have put together some
answers to some common questions regarding our program and funding, and am including them below.
I hope this addresses your biggest concerns.
Feel free to email me any additional questions or thoughts you might have. Good luck with the
application process and all your future studies.
As with pretty much all decent BME PhD graduate programs in the US, all students who
get into our PhD program are pretty much guaranteed funding support throughout their entire
graduate student career. The policy at UF is that the department has guaranteed
funding for all students during their first 9(?) months. After that time, it is expected
that the student will have found a lab that they are at least considering and that lab
will cover their costs. Funding includes complete coverage of all tuition costs, health care, plus a
living stipend each year. The stipend seems to increase each year. For the year 2016 the stipend is $25,000. Teaching assistantships for 1-2 semesters is included/required as part of your training.
You should be able to find a very similar if not better arrangement at any decent BME PhD program
in the U.S. Many top schools, like Johns Hopkins Univ., accept students without regard to which lab they
may wish to work in and the department essentially guarantees funding support for the duration of
your PhD studies. The bottom line is that your personal financial limits should not be a deterent to your pursueing
a PhD in BME (and the same goes for many of the engineering and science fields).
Having the host institution have available support for you (independent of the prospective thesis advisor)
is the best scenario since it gives the student the opportunity to investigate the opportunities
available to him/her and select the lab and advisor that best suits their interests, abilities and
personalities. UF still relies on there being a suitable PhD-thesis advisor having 4-years of
funding prior to accepting a new PhD student into the program. This approach carries the concern that the
student could be 'stuck' with an advisor or lab that they later find out does not suit them well.
Frankly, if I were you and were looking a school that did not virtually guarantee funding for all
students and provide at lease some freedom to select a lab after getting there, I would find another
school to consider, and in my opinion UF is on the fence in this regard.
Apart from a half-tuition fee waiver, funding for masters-only
students is not commonly given here. There are schools out
there that guarantee complete funding for all masters students (for example, I know that
Johns Hopkins Univ. does), so you might want to look around. I typically try to cover some of the costs
for MS students working in my lab (e.g. the other half of tuition), but that is dependent upon whether
I have grant funding to do so, which has been scarce in recent years.
At UF, unless you have your own funding, you will in fact need to contact one or more potential PhD thesis
advisors before the application process is completed since the advisor will need to have funding for your
research prior to your being admitted. Again, this is not the ideal situation in my opinion and for many
institutions you do not need to do this, although it is usually helpful to do a little research into what
research opportunties you might be interested in at the institution that you are applying to.
As for the application itself, I recommend that you write in your personal statement something that uniquely
identifies yourself. With over 100 applications, they are bound to see many people with
the same course backgrounds and similar general interests in research and teaching, so above those
things is there anything that tells us about you in particular? In my application, I
mentioned that the first time I had been introduced to the field of BME (it was not a
well-established field at the time) was on a visit at a chiropractic college that my brother
was attending. During my interviews people would identify me as the one "whose brother was
a chiropractor". I'm not certain that that was even a positive connection for all the
interviewers, but at least they had something that identified me from the other applicants.
from Walter O'Dell, PhD and Bruce Fenton, PhD
Sept 4, 2004
This page is in response to questions asked by others with hopes to get into cancer research, but were not quite sure how to get to there.
Scope of Cancer Research:
Of course the field of cancer research is pretty broad. There are
people here who work from the cellular biology side, studying the
effects that different agents have on metabolic and/or protein pathways
in cells, etc.; and in our department they look at how radiation affects
cells and how radiation effects are moderated by the chemical agents
noted above. I (O'Dell) happen to come from the engineering side where I don't
care how radiation or chemical agents affect the cells, but rather how
to better design tools to detect, track and follow-up tumors
being hit it with a focused radiation beam. Where you want to
go with it thus depends upon what area of investigation (chemistry, bio,
engr, etc.) you are most comfortable with and talented in.
Selecting an Undergraduate Major and Courses:
Because the cancer research field is pretty broad your
undergraduate major could be just about any field relating to biology or
biochemistry or molecular biology or biomedical engineering. To be honest
in the first 2 years of college it probably does not really
matter all that much what major one is in as all the first year courses
are pretty much the same for all majors, although if you have an idea of
where you want to be going that might help you select more appropriate
electives. The BME
program here is intended to give the students an idea of the
biology/physiology of the body, and to give a solid foundation in
engineering skills of applied math, mechanics, signal processing, etc.
Our advice is to obtain a firm foundation in the biological and physical
sciences as an undergraduate. Your specific focus will most likely come
Selecting a Career Path:
These types of majors will provide you with the education you would need to start
work in a technical position in either industrial or academic cancer
research labs. In order to obtain a position in which you are developing
independent cancer research projects (again either in academics or
industry), you would most likely need further post-graduate study: most
likely a PhD -- at this point you would concentrate on some specific
field of interest, i.e., immunology, genetics, molecular biology,
physiology, or something like biomedical engineering.
Our Career Paths:
I started as a bio major (at Cornell) and after 3
semesters transferred into engineering (Applied and Engineering Physics
to be precise). This switch was something I had in mind from day one as
a backup in case the bio stuff did not go as I had hoped/expected, and that
turned out to be the case. I'll note that at the time there was no BME
program there (or anywhere really) else I would have gone into that. I
took a couple more high-level applied math courses while as a bio major so
my transition went pretty smoothly as I had all the engineering
requirements covered. At that time I had no specific intent to go into cancer research.
I did a PhD in BME in the area of MRI-based heart motion analysis, and then did
a 4-year post-doc (in San Diego) working on finite element modeling of the heart. I did
not start doing any cancer releated research until I took the position here at the
UofR after completing my post-doc.
I received my B.S. and M.S. in chemical engineering and then my Ph.D. in
biomedical engineering. In my case, the biomedical engineering research
involved computer modeling of blood flow in vascular networks. I also
had additional post-doctoral training in biomedical engineering, looking
at in vitro blood flow experiments. However, I didn't actually begin any
cancer-related research until about 5 years later, when I began looking
at oxygen transport and blood flow in tumors (in mice). Over the past 15
years or so, my work has evolved into image processing of
immunohistochemically staining frozen tumor sections, which allow me to
automatically determine changes in tumor blood vessel patterns and
oxygen delivery, in order to optimize radiation and drug therapies. So,
as you can see, I had no specific training for cancer research until
well after my PhD degree. And most of the techniques that I'm now using
didn't even exist at that time.